How We Deal With Stress and What We Can Do About It
The idea of stress can be hard to understand but every living organism experiences some form of it. The difference between some organisms is what triggers this stress. For humans, stress can come from the experiences we encounter or by being in certain environments. Stress almost always stems from emotional reactions to certain circumstances or interactions we have throughout our day.
The same goes for the organisms in our bodies. The trillions of microorganisms living inside the human body experience stress simultaneously and all the time. This is what allows for biological processes to take place so we can function properly. An environment with adequate nutrients is key for these processes to function properly every time. When the demands of life conquer the ability to deal with stress, unwanted consequences follow.
Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When it comes down to it, stress is simply potential energy to be used by any living organism. This new energy can be used in a negative or a positive way, it all depends on how it is perceived or what it is affecting.
For me, I have always found positive ways to harness the energy that stress provides. This is especially true when it comes to my career. The more stress that comes my way, the better I become at performing my job. I happily welcome job-related stress because it has made me effective and efficient. Everything just clicks and I thrive in my environment, regardless of the job I’m performing.
The only problem I found when it came to my work stress was when the stress was unrelated to my actual job. This type of stress is always related to politics that take place within the company. The complaining, gossiping and employees attempting to climb the ladder at the expense of others. These are the places we decide to spend most of our waking hours at. These are the people you decide to spend most of your time with.
This is unnecessary stress that causes all kinds of havoc outwardly and as a result inwardly. No matter how hard I tried to fix these issues, I was ill-equipped to deal with these types of stresses. I know that this holds true for the majority of people in the workforce today but it doesn’t have to be this way because ultimately it’s our decision to be there and stay there.
Stress exhibited in living organisms enables them to either function properly or improperly. For humans, this is a completely different story because we are the most self-aware living organism to have ever walked this planet, so our the stress that affects us the most is emotional. The problem is that most of us are unaware of this fact and don’t know what to do with the stress that comes into our lives. We are completely unaware of our emotions and are not equipped to handle them in any way. We just react to them. instead of responding appropriately. We do not understand the massive potential for this stress to wreak havoc on our minds and bodies.
The problems that have shaped stress in today’s world have shown up in almost invisible ways. Stress for many is due to our jobs (having and keeping a job, even if we dislike it), money problems (not having enough of it), bill problems (inability to keep up or having too many), health issues (trying to be healthy and stay healthy) and the pressure to be “normal”(to follow what the norm is for family, friends, and societal groups). Emotional reactions to these problems include anger, frustration, sadness, worry, annoyance and so on.
I have spent most of my life with a tremendous amount of anxiety. Living with the worry of how I am perceived by others. This anxiety has guided the way I have made all my decisions. It’s not my inner voice questioning all my choices but it’s the voice of others. These absurd and useless thought patterns have been instilled in me from a very young age and are a result of my upbringing and influence of others.
I have finally figured out why I react the way I do to certain situations. I’ve come to the realization that I should think about what I care about the outcomes of my choices and not what others will think. Ultimately, my decisions will affect me more than anyone else. This is not to say I don’t consider others when making a choice. At the end of the day, what I think matters the most.
The main element of stress for most people these days is the negative emotions that arise from the thought about money and health. This has become a world issue. The stress of money and the pursuit of it has the majority of us chasing money for all the wrong reasons. We can never have enough of it and when we do, more stress. We are completely unaware of what living within our means is. Money being a common stressor affects our jobs, the food we choose to eat (what we consume affects our inner health), and the actions and reactions we have (how we treat ourselves and others). When we are ill-equipped at dealing with our emotions, the stress can take a major toll on our well-being and this causes even more stress!
Stress affects everyone and everything. There is no escaping it. It’s how we choose to deal with stress that can literally make or breaks us. The inability to deal with stress is when stress becomes an issue. A common practice among most people is not dealing with stress and ignoring or avoiding the emotions associated with it completely. We can attribute this practice to modern-day Hedonsim. Not being aware of our stressors and why they appear in our lives can have some very negative results.
When someone is stressed and using this energy in a negative way it touches everyone and everything around us. If we choose to ignore stress and keep it inside it affects our eating patterns, sleep patterns, and social activities. If we choose to bury our stress within ourselves it influences the way we treat everyone around us, including ourselves.
The last job I had was a dream career of mine. After being there for close to 7 years, the politics within the company had become too much for me to handle. My health started to rapidly deteriorate and I knew I needed an environmental change. I had already made numerous attempts to make my environment better suited for myself. I lowered my hours, stepped away from being lead on projects, tried to work things out with problematic employees. I even went as far as speaking to the VP of the company about my negative experiences. In my mind, I had done everything in my power to make my dream job work. I finally came to the realization that the companies values had changed and that I needed a serious change if I was going to live a healthier and happier life. I eventually handed in my resignation after almost a decade of living in my dream industry. I was done reconstructing my biology just to linger in a toxic environment that only had negative consequences on my well-being.
If we can learn how to navigate our experiences of stress in a more positive manner, we can then live a more balanced and healthier life. Stress is not the problem, the relationship we choose to have with it is where issues start to arise. When we have a healthier, and more understanding relationship with stress we can then learn to steer this energy in the right direction.
The Stress Detective, Dr. Heidi Hanna, states that curiosity, creativity, and collaboration are essential tools that we can use when dealing with our stress. For us humans, these things are already hardwired into our brains. All we have to do is strengthen these mechanisms to become more effective when dealing with our emotions and stress.
Stress is essentially a gift we can use to help us adapt and grow stronger as individuals. There are four main primal reactions we experience unconsciously from stress. They are, Fight, Flight, Freeze or Faint. These things are not true responses but are hardwired reactions into the animal part of ourselves. We can either react or respond to stress. If we can learn how to respond instead of reacting, it allows us to stop and assess the situation and allows for better survival instincts. A reaction is what happens to us and a response is what happens for us.
The human species' greatest asset for survival is our ability to stop, think and respond to a situation. If we choose to react, this creates a reaction loop based on fear and our emotions. If we choose to become curious about our fears instead of continuously reacting to them, we can start to overcome them and start responding to our stress in a more productive way.
Becoming curious about what we fear means asking questions about why we have these fears in the first place. After we start asking these questions, we can then come up with ways to deal with our emotional reactions and start responding to stress in more beneficial ways. After starting this practice on a regular basis the difference will be abundantly noticeable by ourselves and by others.
Dr. Heidi Hanna calls this practice, “Question and Consider.” The question could be, “Why am I feeling this way right now”, or, “What is it that I need at this moment.” After asking these questions we can then start to consider things like, “How is this experience helping me right now,” or, “Are these lessons helping me or anyone else right now.” When we start looking at our fears and stresses with more curiosity, we can start to live our lives with more flexibility and we can start to adapt more easily in our ever-changing environment.
While at my last job, without even realizing it, I began the “Question and Consider” everything in my life. This led me to start questioning everything in my work life and things became more clear. I pinpointed what was really going on and it had nothing to do with me or the people around me. A shift had happened and since my values hadn’t changed but the company values had, I was caught in the crossfire. This was a place where I had originally thought I had a true purpose. Once my purpose was no longer valued I had started to feel stuck and hopeless in my “dream job.” Things became much easier once I came to this realization and this is why it was so easy to hand in my resignation. After making this major environmental change in my life I started to grow as a person again and found my true purpose. I’ve never felt happier and my health is getting better every day.
If we can learn to use the energy and information that comes from stress, positive changes and progress in our world and the world around us will start to unfold. A state of curiosity in all of us will provide a more cohesive existence in a world we all share. No longer will we avoid stress and fear, but we will harness the energy from them and start to make real progress in our lives and the lives of others. When we progress as individuals, it touches everything and makes progress possible for others.